‘You can have it all’ they said! And we believed them. Even though we pretend to know better these days we are still easily captured by this narrative. It’s a trap.
Women in particular are plagued by the ‘how can I find balance?’ question. But why is it a problem? Isn’t ‘balance’ a good thing?
I often hear versions of this in the counselling room: ‘I’m a bad mum’ (I wasn’t patient) ‘My career is down the toilet’ (I was too tired) ‘I’m a terrible partner’ (I didn’t remember their dad’s birthday) ‘My friends hate me’ (I can’t give them the same amount I used to) ‘our house is a pigsty (and it’s my fault).
You know ‘rationally’ it’s not realistic to divide yourself into portions and give 100% to each portion at all times, but beat the hell out of yourself when you can’t do it. You take responsibility for things that aren’t yours alone. The emotional labor is exhausting but you can’t seem to stop.
Here’s a question to ask yourself: When you are burnt out and feel like an inadequate hopeless case, who benefits? Maybe someone else does who can do less because you’re doing so much more. Or maybe no one you care about does, especially you.
The funny thing is, the aim of ‘finding balance’ is supposed to be about a fulfilling life: love, family, career, home, friends, adventures, self-care.
Supposedly we have more freedom than ever. You aren’t oppressed by your life. And yet isn’t the impossible goal of ‘balance’ oppressive?
How can we escape this unhelpful fantasy?
Give yourself full permission to embrace messiness and ‘not-knowing’. Does anything else become available?
Do you have more choices?
Are there things you could be letting yourself off the hook for?
Put energy into the right things: less, not more.
Instead of trying to ‘fit in’ Mindfulness practice, take an extra minute right now to recall when you feel at most peace during the day. What gives you the most pleasing sense of calm. Remind yourself to be truly present with that regular old moment every day.
Celebrate whatever felt good. Celebrate every little thing you felt proud of.
It’s been said a million times, but it bears repeating: ask for what you need. And not only that, but ask for what you want.
If you find resentment building up, STOP (NB: This often happens when you’re doing too much. Remembering every household thing for yourself, your partner and the family. Going to great lengths to make a special gift for someone who doesn’t really appreciate the energy you put into it. Spending hours on a work-related task that would have been fine with ‘good enough’).
Stop asking yourself ‘how can I find balance?’
Instead ask yourself: Why am I doing this?
Now ask yourself again: Why am I REALLY doing this? Get uncomfortable. Like super squirmy.
Am I scared of being unloveable if I don’t? Has the socially acceptable story of the perfect woman captured me against my will? Did it seem easier at the time to ‘just do it for them’ and now I regret it but feel I can’t change it? Do I just want to be liked? Am I petrified of conflict? Have I caught a case of the not-good-enoughs? Is it frightening to stop because then i might have to confront some challenging truths?
It really is hard to pull the brakes on the way we’ve been acclimatised to ‘be’. There are so many excuses to just ‘go on business-as-usual’ trying to find balance. Except business-as-usual sux. You know it and I know it. And you can totally change that.
Stay in touch with what’s most important to you, what is most precious and valuable, even if that changes depending on what needs the most attention.
Let the rest fade into static.
You don’t need balance, you can just be human.
Written on Gumbaynggirr country. I acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land and pay my respect to Elders past, present and future and extend that respect to all First Nations people.
Main image by https://www.pexels.com/@ketut-subiyanto